If communication is key to making an organization run smoothly, several members of the Iberville Parish School Board are accusing Superintendent Ed Cancienne of needing some work.
At least one board member feels Cancienne should be reprimanded for not adequately notifying the board about findings in a recent audit report that could end up costing the school district.
The breakdown in communication began at the April 14 meeting of the School Board. That night, board members learned the Universal Service Administrative Co. ordered the School Board to refund more than $600,000 in E-rate grant funding the school district used to expand its Internet and telecommunication services.
USAC is penalizing the school district based on findings in an audit report, released Feb. 24, which revealed Iberville failed to retain competitive bidding documentation in compliance with Federal Communication Commission standards.
Despite voting to amend the 2013-14 operating budget to allocate funds to repay the USAC, several board members confronted Cancienne that night with questions seeking accountability for the violation and why the School Board wasn’t notified about the audit findings sooner.
Instead of answers, all board members got was a confusing back-and-forth debate among members of the administration who were hesitant to publicly point the finger at one another.
Five days after the School Board meeting, the school district filed an appeal with USAC asserting FCC bidding standards weren’t violated because the school district made it clear in its funding request that it wouldn’t be releasing an RFP for its Internet upgrade project.
In its appeal the school district argues, “USAC auditors should not have requested from Iberville a copy of the RFP as indicated in their auditor report. At the time of the filing ... Iberville notified USAC and potential vendors that an RFP would not be provided.”
“This is a professional services contract,” the appeal letter says. “Under state law this service does not fall under Public Bid Law.”
“No one dropped the ball,” Cancienne said. “We’ve been looking for documents but no documents were found because of the box we checked. My staff has exemplified accountability to the citizens of Iberville Parish.”
When the superintendent informed the School Board of this at its May 12 regular meeting, Cancienne was confronted with more questions and criticized by board members.
“Looking through the appeal, the audit was dated Feb. 24. It wasn’t until April 14 that the board was given any knowledge of the process,” board member Dorothy Sansoni told the superintendent at the May 12 meeting. “The fact remains: The board should be kept informed no matter what it is. You left us in the cold. We had constituents coming to us, asking us questions and we couldn’t answer things we weren’t made aware of.”
“At the April 14 meeting, you sat there and did not say a thing. I feel the superintendent should be reprimanded for not letting the board know what happened,” Sansoni concluded.
Board members Darlene Ourso and Brian Willis also voiced their disappointment in how the administration handled the issue but seemed less inclined to discipline Cancienne over it.
“I was upset. I had telephone calls about it,” Willis said. “(But) I think everything will come out all right with this. It’s a learning experience for the staff.”
Terry L. Jones covers West Baton Rouge, Iberville and Pointe Coupee parishes for The Advocate. He can be reached at email@example.com.